The 10 Phrases You Hear the Most at Buffer (And How They Might Help Your Culture, Too)

medium_322616749I’m pretty big on words.

As Buffer’s content crafter, I guess that kind of comes with the territory. However, I’m not alone on this. Words are an extremely valuable component to the way we get work done at Buffer. As a distributed team, the words we use in our communication with each other carry extra significance. As a company focused on culture and customer support, the words we use are vital to getting across our message in the most accurate, positive way.

As such, we’ve developed a bit of a Buffer language.

The words and phrases we use most often at Buffer slowly but surely become second nature. We drop “keen” and “intuition” into our emails as naturally as can be. We bring our Buffer language into our homes, trying to “mastermind” and “sync” with our loved ones. And the more we use these words, the stronger our culture becomes.

What are these phrases exactly? And how do they support the way we view culture? I’m excited to give you an inside look. Keep reading to see the 10 most common Buffer words and phrases. 

First off, a review of Buffer culture.

To add a little context to this Buffer language, I thought I’d start by sharing the 10 Buffer values that make up our company culture. Here’s the slide deck with a breakdown of all ten.

As we go through Buffer language, I’ll point out which elements of culture relate to which words. If you see any values I may have missed, let me know in the comments.

Here we go…

1. “How does this make you feel?”

The question might sound quite obvious. And yet, it’s a very different question than, say, “What do you think?” or “What do you like?”

Focusing on someone else’s feelings—as opposed to their thoughts or personal tastes—adds a deeper layer of empathy to the discussion. It shifts the focus from the item or task or object and places it onto the person.

It feels great to be asked how you feel.

We’ve noticed that this type of empathic question is helpful not only in our communication with each other but also in our communication with Buffer users. When we focus on feelings, responses skyrocket. It would seem people are more inclined to share when you tap into feelings. Is it because one’s feelings can’t be second-guessed? I’d love to know what you think about this—er, rather, how you feel. :)

Buffer values: Empathy, listening

2. “We’re keen to get to the bottom of this”

I don’t believe I had ever used the word “keen” before I joined Buffer. But now, it’s everywhere!

The word most often pops up when we’re talking about our eagerness to tackle a problem or see something come to fruition. Rather than say, “We’re excited to find out what’s broken here!” or “We’d love to see the results from this,” we opt for keen.

You might be familiar with the word “keen” as a way to express something clear and finely tuned—like a keen eye or a keen insight. We use the less well-known definition (but quite common in British English): enthusiasm and excitement.

This makes a world of difference in our emails. Keen makes it so that we clearly express our genuine interest in a topic, without resorting to any cliches or happy talk that can either come across as white noise or disingenuous. We aim to mean what we say, and we’ve found that keen is the perfect word to express our eagerness.

Buffer values: Clarity, positivity

3. “What is your intuition on this?”

Have you ever asked anyone for their intuition before?

We love asking for intuition because it gives the other person an opportunity to share an opinion without feeling a need to have the “right” answer. You can speak without expertise. You can speak from experience.

We value being a “no ego” doer, and part of that value is to communicate with humility. Intuition is a humble alternative to an authoritative answer.

Buffer values: Be a “no ego” doer

4. “I’ve found that …”

None of us are right all the time. There’s a good chance even that I’m wrong more often than I’m right. We celebrate the opportunity to grow with self-improvement and progress, which is why we often seek to avoid concrete, authoritative, no-doubt-about-it statements.

Instead, we speak from experience. “I’ve found that” is our way of letting someone know our opinion in the most open, conversational way possible. It keeps the conversation going, and it allows the other person to make decisions based on our input—rather than being told what to do.

An aspect of the “no ego” value at Buffer is to let other people have your best ideas. “I’ve found that” gives all the necessary information to someone and lets them make the ultimate decision, one that can be their own.

Related words/phrases:

“Maybe we could …”

“I wonder …”

Buffer values: Be a “no ego” doer, let others have your best ideas

5. Awesome, amazing, and other superlatives

“Awesome” is in our genes at Buffer. We’ve even named a plan after it! Our value to default to positivity and happiness often leads to a default response of “Awesome!” or “Amazing!” We all seem to be genuinely happy people, and “awesome” and “amazing” are our battle cries. We’re also big fans of exclamation points, smiley faces, and emoji at Buffer (they figure prominently in this word cloud of our Slack conversations). But you might have guessed that. :)

wordcloud

Of course, being positive in email is a huge advantage. Because the tone of email can be hard to read, you must be absolutely clear of your intentions. There’s little doubt about tone when emails include “awesome” and “amazing” and other super-positive words.

Related words/phrases:

Yay!

Sounds good to me!

Great work!

Good stuff!

Buffer values: Positivity and happiness, clarity

6. “Inspiring!”

We tend to talk a lot about inspiration at Buffer. We act out our value of self-improvement on a daily basis, often trying new improvements based on the experiences of others. Every part of the Buffer product—from support to blog and everything in between—owes a debt of gratitude to the amazing sites and resources that teach us daily.

So it’s no surprise that the word “inspire” comes up regularly in communication.

Inspiration touches on so many different Buffer values. Self-improvement is a big one. Also, inspiration owes a bit to listening, reflection, gratitude, and positivity. Choosing to be aware of other people and responding with gratitude to give credit where credit due is essential to the way we think about inspiration at Buffer.

Buffer values: Self-improvement, listening, reflection, gratitude, positivity

7. “Let’s sync”

Though we’re a team of 24 spread across the globe, we end up talking to one another quite a lot. We call these meetups “syncs.”

I suppose we could call them most anything really, but there is a special feeling about the word sync. To sync with someone, you imagine getting on the same page with them. To get on the same page with someone, you imply a sense of equality.

In a meeting, someone’s in charge and a hierarchy is present. With a sync? It’s just a couple of teammates getting up to speed with one another.

We tend to use the word “sync” a lot, as evidenced by this word cloud of our daily achievement emails (via idonethis).

image

Related words/phrases: 

Mastermind (a type of mentoring we all do)

Buffer values: Be a “no ego” doer, positivity, clarity

8. “Would you be up for … ?”

If we need to ask a favor of someone, our go-to question isn’t “Can you do this for me” but rather “Would you be up for this?” We like to put the focus on the other person, making it as clear as possible that we value their time and energy and giving them every opportunity to say no if they need to.

“Would you be up for” seems to accomplish this goal pretty well because it is entirely others-focused. There’s no pressure for a forced yes. And the whole concept of “being up” for something is rather invigorating, wouldn’t you say?

Buffer values: Empathy

9. Here’re, it’d, and other fun contractions

There is no such thing as a bad contraction. This is the code I go by at Buffer (and one where I’m sure English teachers and I might disagree).

Here’s the thing about contractions: They’re conversational. They’re casual. They’re fun.

We aim to be approachable with our communication with teammates and our communication with users. A properly placed contraction—especially one you don’t see all that often—can easily do the trick. Here’re a few of the more unusual ones I’ve used so far:

Here’re = Here are

There’re = There are

It’d = It would

I’d’ve = I would have

Buffer values: Positivity and happiness

10. “Buffery”

I think we’ve come full circle by this point! “Buffery” is our behind-the-scenes term for the overall way that we communicate with users, be it via the product, in the app, over email, etc.

“Buffery” encompasses all our Buffer values, making sure that the message we’re portraying is in line with the way we want to make people feel. It often serves as a reminder to make things fun, too! We love it when positivity and happiness radiate from what we write.

In fact, each of our specs for future product enhancements or experiments includes a checklist of Buffer values.

Buffer values

Buffer values: All of them!

Which words/phrases resonate the most in your workplace?

These aren’t the best or right words, of course—they’re just some of the phrases that many of us have adopted to communicate more kindly and gently as a team.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the “Buffer language” we’ve developed as well as what words you hear the most in your own office. Let’s talk more about words in the comments!

Image credit: revbean

  • Jevon Millan

    We’ve completely replaced the word “very” with “super” in our workplace when using it to emphasize positive feelings or reactions. You’ll also hear the single word “tracking” to mean, “I completely understand, and agree”. “Tracking” also sometimes means that the person just had an epiphany about what is being discussed and just now came to understand. So you can probably imagine that “super tracking” pops up quite a bit. :)

    We also use “How do you want to….?” to promote initiative and give people the freedom to accomplish tasks they are responsible for in whatever manner they see fit. I find this phrase prevents micromanaging and also removes the feeling that people are being told or ordered to do things.

    You’d also hear from our managers the phrase, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Which I super like.

    • Courtney Seiter

      These are great, Jevon! I love “super tracking”–it sounds like a very special power! :) An offer of help is one of the most powerful things to hear in a workplace.

      • Jevon Millan

        Thanks! That’s non-profit for you :)

  • Alec Matias

    Wait a second… “It’d” is not a proper contraction? I’ve been using it all my life!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Haha, Alec! We don’t see anything wrong with “it’d” either! I can think back on an English teacher or two who might’ve frowned on it, so maybe that’s where my sense of “proper” comes from. By all means, keep the it’d going!

  • http://hubskills.com/ Partha Bhattacharya

    The watchwords are humble, humility, empathy. I am reminded a recent article I read, 8 Psychological Benefits of Being Humble, which if I may say so is supported by yet another of your favorite phrase, backed by science. Feels nice to be a Buffer addict.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Love the concepts you’ve picked out here; they’re all very important to us. Yes, “backed by science” is definitely a No. 1 phrase on the Buffer blog! :)

  • Agnes Dadura

    These are all lovely! I rather not say what words come to mind when thinking about my current workplace, but I would gladly borrow some of yours just for my own vocabulary, to improve my own communication first.

    • Courtney Seiter

      What’s ours is yours! Hope they help you spread a little happiness :)

      • Agnes Dadura

        Thanks Courtney!

  • Andrea Goulet Ford

    Again, you’ve set yourselves apart. So many clients come to me asking how they can create a distinct and engaging brand voice. What I love about you is that you’re all sharing how much work goes on behind the scenes in order to create that magical tone that makes customers want to engage with you.

    Y’all are the epitome of what I call a Culture of Content and I’m in the process of writing a book about it. (http://www.cultureofcontent.com/) The biggest challenge I’m having is not including you as a beacon in every single example I write. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing all of this with us! :)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thank you so much for this comment, Andrea! It means the world that you’d think of us so often as an example.

      We’re happy to keep sharing, too! If there is anything else you’d like to hear about the way we work, we’re all ears! We’d love to write about it!

  • http://belovednewo.blogspot.com/ Laura

    My last conversation with a Buffer member via Twitter involved “I’m keen to get to the bottom of this” and I loved it. It is such an interesting phrase and shows you guys really care about solving any issues.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Excellent! It’s wonderful to hear your reaction, Laura. Thanks for sharing! Oh, and I hope we did get to the bottom of it for you! :)

  • Maureen Cioni

    I Love #3, its a great way to get input without putting pressure on people who usually wouldn’t engage.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      That’s been our experience, too! So glad to hear this resonates with you, Maureen! :)

  • Mariana Robles Martínez

    Thank you for sharing this!! it’s inspiring. I though the atmosphere in the place I work was ‘the best’, but you guys seem to be some steps ahead and have it all super clear. Cheers and bests :)

  • Ann Mullen

    Using intuition is something I learned more about from Kathy Kolbe. She says that when a person is doing what they are intuitively good at, they have energy, are happy and stay positive. Sounds like you might know a little about this.

  • Daryl Eicher

    Love it. The basic premise that words reach the heart first and the mind – sometimes never – is brilliant. Einstein said: “The highest form of work is play”, and it sounds like you’re taking that seriously. Bravo!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Love that Einstein quote, Daryl!

      • Daryl Eicher

        Uncle Albert was wicked smart – great story teller right?

  • http://henrylmencken.com/ Henry L. Mencken

    Sound to me like mind control. But I’ve been dead since 1956.

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Jason Diller

    ding

  • fnnkybutt

    I’ve become such a huge fan of Buffer Blog over the last few months, and especially of Kevan Lee – I fully expected one of the common phrases at Buffer to be “Dang! Kevan wrote another kick ass piece of content!” It’s really inspired me to kick my own game up a notch.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Haha, what an awesome comment! Thanks so much for saying so. It’s been an amazing ride, with an amazing team. :) So much fun!

  • http://www.contentimo.com/ Robin Yearsley

    I wonder where the Customer fits into your values? The word “customer” appears for the first time on slide 14, and then only once again on slide 15. It doesn’t appear anywhere on the high level list at the front. It’s a very internally biased set of statements, which is putting employees first. That’s fine and works well for many organisations, so long as the driving purpose is to serve the customer. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Interesting find, Robin! That’s a really great point to make about internal vs. external statements. I probably could have done a better job linking out to this document that we use for communication with customers: https://bufferapp.com/tone-guide. I think you might find a bit of crossover between that link and this post. :)

  • kevinalex01

    Wow! How do I invest? I love your company! Thanks for sharing this…

  • Alison

    Mmmm – always enjoyed Buffer posts … and whenever I’ve contacted you guys, have had amazing service & prompt response. Guess this explains it all :) So nice & refreshing guys – stay keen!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Alison!

  • Kate Bauer

    Pretty keen on this post. Nice work Kevan! I personally experienced #1 and #5 while recently live chatting with Octavio (shutout!). I was having a particular tough morning with non-buffer related issues and after a few minutes of chatting about buffer related questions my day felt brighter all around. Every interaction I’ve had with y’all has been full of humility, respect, and joy. Thanks for living out values that leave a legacy. :)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Wow, this is so great to hear, Kate! Hope you don’t mind my passing on this message to Octavio. :)

      • Kate Bauer

        I’d be delighted if you did! Thanks, Kevan :)

  • Guillaume Perdrix

    Hey! Thanks for this post! As a response, I wrote a post about the culture at the startup I am working at. Check it out : bit.ly/blackbirdculture Cheers !

  • http://www.theclippingpathindia.com/ Clipping Path

    I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing on your rss feed and I’m hoping you write once more soon!
    I am a graphics designer and I am working on photoshop Clipping Path & my company is providing Clipping Path Service , Visit My Website Now :)